Make Your Little Corner of the World a Better Place for the People You Serve

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“Something I tell my teacher candidates all the time is that we all get the same 24 hours in a day and days in a year, so I encourage you to use your time the best you can and hopefully to make your little corner of the world a better place for the people you serve around you.” ~Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter

My colleague/friend and I just returned from the Minnesota Rural Education Association (MREA) Conference that was held at Cragun’s Resort near Brainerd, MN. I serve on the board for MREA representing Higher Education. In addition to Higher Education, others who attend this conference are teachers, principals, superintendents, school board members, curriculum coordinators, counselors, and many others. It is a fabulous conference with much learning. If you live in MN and your school is a member of MREA, we highly recommend this conference to you!

MREA includes an Awards Banquet during this yearly conference. Schools are nominated for the Profile of Excellence Award. These schools are selected based on programs that are innovative, benefit students, have collaboration efforts, and are adaptable for other schools to replicate.

Teachers are nominated for the Educators of Excellence Award. The criteria for these teachers are those who have a positive impact on students and student achievement, are a leader in their school and district and community, have an innovative and creative teaching practice that impacts all students, and who collaborate with colleagues, parents, families, and the community.

One last award that MREA offers is the Distinguished Service Award.  MREA asks that these leaders demonstrate one or more of the criteria listed on their website. While I was reading through these criteria, the first person who popped into my head was my colleague and friend, Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter because she doesn’t meet just one criterion, she meets them all. So of course, I nominated her.

Rhonda was chosen to receive this award. ❤

Being an MREA board member, I was offered the privilege of introducing her at the awards banquet. Of course I said yes. I was a nervous wreck getting up in front of 300 plus people, but I survived it. Below is an excerpt from my introduction to give you just a glimpse of who Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter is:

Rhonda is a person who I have come to trust and appreciate and love. She has many diverse experiences and has achieved so much in her life. I’d like to share just a glimpse of who Dr. Rhonda Bonnstetter is and how she got to where she is today.
Rhonda is the mom of 4 children…three daughters and one son. Her son happens to be here tonight with us. Thank you Josh for being here to support your mom.  
In addition to her 4 children, Rhonda and her late husband Jeff were foster parents to numerous children. She shared with me that she lost count after 40. 😀
Rhonda began her career as a paraprofessional as a young mom.
With encouragement from two teachers, Dr. Bonnstetter decided to attend college to become a math teacher.
**She taught high school math at Murray County Central for nine years.
**Rhonda continued on by earning her Master’s Degree in Math Education and then her Educational Doctorate degree in Curriculum and Instruction.
**She then joined us at SMSU as a faculty member in the School of Education in 2005. Four short years later Rhonda was voted in as our Department Chair and held this position from 2009 until 2014.
Among her recent accomplishments was her visioning to create and gain legislative approval for a para-to-SPED teacher program as a non-traditional pathway for mid-career individuals to join the profession.
Rhonda has held a variety of local and state leadership positions to advocate on behalf of Minnesota teachers. She served on the MREA board for 8 years and also served as president. Rhonda is the president elect for MACTE and she has worked closely with PELSB.  
Rhonda began phased retirement this school year however…I know she’s not done yet.
How do I know this? Well…because Rhonda is an “and then some” kind of girl. She does what is required, and then some. She has written a textbook for her Technology class. She has co-authored a textbook with myself and other SMSU professors. She teaches math at Marshall High School during the summer. She plans and presents math workshops through the SW/WC Coop.  She watches her 12 grandchildren to help out her adult children. She has done all of this ‘and then some.’  As Fred Nolan has said about Rhonda, “She is like the Energizer Bunny. She just keeps going and going.”
I’m grateful for Rhonda and her commitment to the teaching profession. She is truly making a difference in the lives of every student she works with…

Readers, if you’d like to watch the awards presentation check it out on YouTube. The video is the whole banquet so skip ahead to 1 hour and 47 minutes to watch Rhonda’s award. Thank you to MREA for Live Streaming it. (Click on the MREA pic below to watch).

Blog Rhonda Awards BanquetOne funny story from the day after the awards banquet. A gentleman approached Rhonda to shake her hand and congratulate her. He smiled and said to Rhonda, “After all those experiences that were mentioned in your introduction, I thought for sure an old lady would walk on the stage. And then I saw you…you are young.” 😀

Rhonda, if you are reading this, we just want to say congratulations again! You are so deserving. As your Granddaughter Abriel Bonnstetter has been known to say… “Grandma, you’re kind of a big deal.” We couldn’t agree with her more. 🙂

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Stay Calm and Make Your World a Better Place,

Dr. Wendy & Dr. V.

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